It seems Seattle is determined to move ahead with its plan to replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel. This is a bad idea. Burying a large freeway tunnel underneath Seattle is not a good plan for the future, and I will list a few reasons why.
- Peak oil is approaching. I've talked about this before, but it appears peak oil will occur within the decade. With gas prices hitting record highs early in the year, I wonder how long people will put up with this before changing their habits. The tunnel will take at least seven years to build, at which point we will most definitely have hit peak oil. Gas prices will only go up in the coming years, and eventually people will start to change. When this happens, we won't need the 120,000 car/day capacity of the current viaduct. Update: I wrote that paragraph back in April. In five months, the price of gas went up 70 cents/gallon. The price has settled again, but that doesn't mean it won't go up more later.
- The tunnel would only benefit cars. Pedestrians and bicyclists won't have any access to the tunnel, yet they still have to pay for it. Nearby businesses on street level would live with construction for years, but afterwards would not see a large increase in patrons. If the tunnel was abandoned in favor road improvements, everyone would benefit from the enhancements and it wouldn't take as long, reducing the time that local businesses are disturbed.
- Tunnels are very expensive. I feel this would quickly become a boondoggle and have major budget over runs like Boston's big dig. The economy has not yet regained full strength, so it would be unwise to spend such a large amount - mortgaging the future of our city, county, and state - for something of dubious value in the long run.
- The traffic figures don't take into account people changing their habits. If routes become too congested, people will adapt. Some people will carpool, others will telecommute some days, and more might be willing to try mass transit. I believe I read that people, on average, change jobs or homes every three years. Many people would likely move or switch jobs (for example, workers in a chain could switch from one store to another).
- Some agency has an irrational fear of losing road capacity. What makes cars the canon mode of transportation? San Francisco shut down a large freeway and they didn't have gridlock. And no matter what LA does, they can't get away from their traffic mess. If this tunnel were utilized to full capacity, it would drop tons of traffic into the city.
- Greg Nickels wants to make Seattle more pedestrian and green. Building a large highway that promotes car use would be diametric to both of these goals.
- I've talked to people who work for the city and they say there is a want to increase mass transit ridership. The mass transit system would benefit from not building the tunnel. If the perpetual gridlock some predict actually comes to fruition, ridership in mass transit would soar.
- It isn't a complete tunnel. I watched a video showing a drive through and was aghast to discover that it still has a small overhead section between the waterfront tunnel and Belltown tunnel that exists now.
The reasons against the tunnel are staggering, and I'd like to link people to a more level headed solution than the tunnel. If we can have four votes on a monorail, I think we should have one vote for the tunnel. Unfortunately, it gets lumped with the gas tax and other measures, so if you support the gas tax, but not the tunnel, you are in a pickle. We need an à la carte vote on the tunnel.